Lamar Jackson’s Success Is Both a Gift and a Curse for the Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have looked like one of the most dominant teams in football for 11 quarters this season, and most of that success stems from Lamar Jackson. He’s led the team to a 2-1 record and is setting the pace in the MVP race.
Prior to the season, Jackson failed to agree to a contract extension and he bet on himself to prove his worth. And not only is it paying off, it’s making the Ravens’ front office sweat profusely at the prospect of what it will take to retain the superstar quarterback now.
Lamar Jackson’s gamble on himself is paying off
Jackson is off to a blazing start in 2022, captaining one of the most balanced and explosive offenses in the league. Baltimore leads the league in scoring after three games, averaging 33 points per game.
While he’s often been criticized for his passing ability, this has been his biggest improvement this season, as he leads the league in passing touchdowns (10) and passer rating (119.0). He’s also been more careful with the football, throwing just two interceptions on 88 attempts at a 2.3% clip, a personal low since his MVP season in 2019.
Jackson is still dominant at running the ball, as he’s tied for the fifth-most rushing yards (243) in the league and has found the end zone on the ground twice so far this season.
He’s also been setting records along the way. He’s the first quarterback in franchise history to throw three touchdowns in each of the opening three games of a season. Additionally, he’s the first quarterback in NFL history to throw three touchdowns and rush for at least 100 yards in back-to-back games (h/t NFL.com).
Jackson’s been a star in the league since taking over for the Ravens, which makes it all that more surprising he hasn’t received an extension yet.
Despite his record-setting career, which includes an MVP in 2019, Jackson is playing out the final year of his rookie contract.
In terms of a player betting on himself, this looms large as one of the riskiest moves in NFL history. The signal-caller has no guaranteed money after this season, and things could go from great to tragic in a matter of just one play.
But the decision, so far, has paid off immensely in his favor. The Ravens, meanwhile, are probably regretting not coming to an agreement with the All-Pro quarterback.
The Baltimore Ravens not extending Jackson this offseason will cost them a lot
The two parties spent much of the offseason trying to come to terms on a long-term contract extension to keep the former MVP in Baltimore, but nothing came to be.
Details of the contract negotiations between Jackson and the team were kept behind closed doors. The final deal discussed was a five-year extension worth $250 million with $133 million guaranteed.
The quarterback declined.
Throughout the process, the 25-year-old has served as his own agent. And while he would like to stay in Baltimore, he’s probably eying more protected money with his next deal after seeing what other quarterbacks around the league have obtained.
Russell Wilson agreed to a five-year, $242.5 million deal with the Denver Broncos that includes $161 million guaranteed. Kyler Murray signed a $230.5 million extension with $160 million guaranteed across the same amount of years.
Then, of course, there’s Deshaun Watson, who received a fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns this offseason. Watson’s deal is likely the main culprit for what’s holding up Jackson’s extension.
The Ravens – and 30 other NFL organizations – are very weary of giving one player a fully-guaranteed contract of that magnitude. Injuries are the biggest concern, especially when it comes to Jackson, who runs the ball the most of any quarterback in the league.
With all of that being said, though, a franchise tag in 2023 is definitely in play. Kirk Cousins played on two tags with Washington before signing a fully-guaranteed deal with the Minnesota Vikings. Dak Prescott was on the franchise tag in 2020 before receiving a massive extension the following offseason.
If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, any team without a surefire starter at quarterback will be making an offer for Jackson.
The Baltimore Ravens need Lamar Jackson more than he needs them
Jackson is in the midst of another MVP season, but his brilliance is overshadowing a lot of the flaws across the Ravens roster. The offensive line is a disaster, the receiver room leaves much to be desired, and the tailbacks are averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Jackson has accounted for 87% of the Ravens’ offense this season, according to ESPN. His 243 rushing yards are three times more than club’s the next rusher.
The defense used to be a bright spot but has quickly turned into one of the worst units in the NFL. They rank dead last in total yards (458.0) and passing yards (353.3) allowed per game, respectively. They’ve also surrendered 77 points in three games, 28 of which came in a fourth-quarter collapse against the Miami Dolphins.
Delete Jackson from the situation, and the Ravens are contending for the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft instead of front-running for the AFC North title.
Baltimore was hoping to retain its starting quarterback on that $250 million deal with just $133 million guaranteed. That number has gone up substantially after the past three games.
Stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.